Learn More

Edmund Spenser

(1552 - 13 January 1599 / London / England)

Virgils Gnat


Wrong'd, yet not daring to expresse my paine,
To you (great Lord) the causer of my care,
In clowdie teares my case I thus complaine
Vnto yourselfe, that onely priuie are:
But if that any Oedipus vnware
Shall chaunce, through power of some diuining spright,
To reade the secrete of this riddle rare,
And know the purporte of my euill plight,
Let him rest pleased with his owne insight,
Ne further seeke to glose vpon the text:
For griefe enough it is to grieued wight
To feele his fault, and not be further vext.
But what so by my selfe may not be showen,
May by this Gnatts complaint be easily knowen.


We now haue playde (Augustus) wantonly,
Tuning our song vnto a tender Muse,
And like a cobweb weauing slenderly,
Haue onely playde: let thus much then excuse
This Gnats small Poeme, that th' whole history
Is but a jest, though envie it abuse:
But who such sports and sweet delights doth blame,
Shall lighter seeme than this Gnats idle name.

Hereafter, when as season more secure
Shall bring forth fruit, this Muse shall speak to thee
In bigger notes, that may thy sense allure,
And for thy worth frame some fit Poesie,
The golden offspring of Latona pure,
And ornament of great Ioues progenie,
Phoebus shall be the author of my song,
Playing on iuorie harp with siluer strong.

He shall inspire my verse with gentle mood
Of Poets Prince, whether he woon beside
Faire Xanthus sprincled with Chimæras blood;
Or in the woods of Astery abide;
Or whereas mount Parnasse, the Muses brood,
Doth his broad forhead like two hornes diuide,
And the sweete waues of sounding Castaly
With liquid foote doth slide downe easily.

Wherefore ye Sisters which the glorie bee
Of the Pierian streames, fayre Naiades,
Go too, and dauncing all in companie,
Adorne that God: and thou holie Pales,
To whome the honest care of husbandrie
Returneth by continuall successe,
Haue care for to pursue his footing light;
Throgh the wide woods, & groues, with green leaues dight.

Professing thee I lifted am aloft
Betwixt the forrest wide and starrie sky:
And thou most dread (Octauius) which oft
To learned wits giuest courage worthily,
O come (thou sacred childe) come sliding soft,
And fauour my beginnings graciously:
For not these leaues do sing that dreadfull stound,
When Giants bloud did staine Phlegræan ground.

Nor how th' halfe horsy people, Centaures hight,
Fought with the bloudie Lapithaes at bord,
Nor how the East with tyranous despight
Burnt th Attick towres, and people slew with sword;
Was digged downe, nor yron bands abord
The Pontick sea by their huge Nauy cast,
My volume shall renowne, so long since past.

Nor Hellespont trampled with horses feete,
When flocking Persians did the Greeks affray;
But my soft Muse, as for her power more meete,
Delights (with Phoebus friendly leaue) to play
An easie running verse with tender feete.
And thou (dread sacred child) to thee alway,
Let euerlasting lightsome glory striue,
Through the worlds endles ages to suruiue.

And let an happie roome remaine for thee
Mongst heauenly ranks, where blessed soules do rest;
And let long lasting life with ioyous glee,
As thy due meede that thou deseruest best,
Hereafter many yeares remembred be
Amongst good men, of whom thou oft are blest;
Liue thou for euer in all happinesse:
But let us turne to our first businesse.

The fiery sun was mounted now on hight
Vp to the heauenly towers, and shot each where
Out of his golden Charet glistering light;
And fayre Aurora with her rosie heare,
The hatefull darknes now had put to flight,
When as the shepheard seeing day appeare,
His little Goats gan driue out of their stalls,
To feede abroad, where pasture best befalls.

To an high mountaines top he with them went,
Where thickest grasse did cloath the open hills:
They now amongst the woods and thickets ment,
Now in the valleies wandring at their wills,
Spread themselues farre abroad through each descent;
Some on the soft greene grasse feeding their fills;
Some clambring through the hollow cliffes on hy,
Nibble the bushie shrubs, which growe thereby.

Others the vtmost boughs of trees doe crop,
And brouze the woodbine twigges, that freshly bud
This with full bit doth catch the vtmost top
Of some soft Willow, or new growen stud;
This with sharpe teeth the brambles leaues doth lop,
And chaw the tender prickles in her Cud;
The whiles another high doth ouerlooke
Her owne like image in christall brooke.

O the great happines, which shepheards haue,
Who so loathes not too much the poor estate,
With minde that ill vse doth before depraue,
Ne measures all things by the costly rate
Of riotise, and semblants outward braue;
No such sad cares, as wont to macerate
And rend the greedie mindes of couetous men,
Do euer creepe into the shepheards den.

Ne cares he if the fleece, which him arayes,
Be not twice steeped in Assyrian dye,
Ne glistering of golde, which vnderlayes
The summer beames, doe blinde his gazing eye.
Ne pictures beautie, nor the glauncing rayes
Of precious stones, whence no good commeth by;
Of Bætus or of Alcons vanity.

Ne ought the whelky pearles esteemeth hee,
Which are from Indian seas brought far away:
But with pure brest from carefull sorrow free,
On the soft grasse his limbs doth oft display,
In sweete spring time, when flowres varietie
With sundrie colours paints the sprincled lay;
There lyin all at ease, from guile or spight,
With pype of fennie reedes doth him delight.

There he, Lord of himselfe, with palme bedight,
His looser locks doth wrap in wreath of vine:
There his milk dropping Goats be his delight,
And fruitful Pales, and the forrest greene,
And darkesome caues in pleasaunt vallies pight,
Whereas continuall shade is to be seene,
And where fresh sprining wells, as christall neate,
Do alwayes flow, to quench his thirstie heate.

O who can lead them to a more happie life,
Than he, that with cleane minde and heart sincere,
No greedy riches knowes nor bloudie strife,
No deadly fight of warlick fleete doth feare,
Ne runs in perill of foes cruell knife,
That in the sacred temples he may reare,
A trophee of his glittering spoyels and treasure,
Or may abound in riches aboue measure.

Of him his God is worshipt with his sythe,
And not with skill of craftsman polished:
He ioyes in groues, and makes himselfe full blythe,
With sundrie flowers in wilde fieldes gathered;
Ne frankincens he from Panchæa buyth,
Sweete quiet harbours in his harmeles head,
And perfect pleasure builds her iouyous bowre,
Free from sad cares, that rich mens hearts deuowre.

This all his care, this all his whole indeuour,
To this his minde and senses he doth bend,
How he may flow in quiets matchles treasour,
Content with any food that God doth send;
And how his limbs, resolu'd through idle leisour,
Vnto sweete sleepe he may securely lend,
In some coole shadow from the scorching heate,
The whiles his flock their chawed cuds do eate.

O flocks, O Faunes, and O ye pleasaunt springs
Of Tempe, where the countrey Nymphs are rife,
Through whose not costly care each shepheard sings
As merrie notes vpon his rusticke Fife,
As that Ascræan bard, whose fame now rings
Through the wide world, and leads as ioyfull life.
Free from all troubles and from worldly toyle,
In which fond men doe all their dayes turmoyle.

In such delights whilst thus his carelesse time
This shepheard driues, vpleaning on his batt,
And on shrill reedes chaunting his rustick rime,
Hyperion throwing foorth his beames full hott,
Into the highest top of heauen gan clime,
And the world parting by an equall lott,
Did shed his whirling flames on either side,
As the great Ocean doth himselfe diuide.

Then gan the shepheard gather into one
His stragling Goates, and draue them to a foord,
Whose cærule streame, rombling in Pible stone,
Crept vnder mosse as greene as any goord.
Now had the Sun halfe heauen ouergone,
When he heard back from that water foord,
Draue from the force of Phoebus boyling ray,
Into thick shadowes, there themselues to lay.

Soone as he them plac'd in thy sacred wood
(O Delian Goddesse) saw, to which of yore
Came the bad daughter of old Cadmus brood,
Cruell Agaue, flying vengeance sore
Of king Nictilus for the guiltie blood,
Which she with cursed hands had shed before;
There she halfe frantick hauing slaine her sonne,
Did shrowd her selfe like punishment to shonne.

Here also playing on the grassy greene,
Woodgods, and Satyres, and swift Dryades,
With many Fairies oft were dauncing seene.
Not so much did Dan Orpheus represse,
The streames of Hebrus with his songs I weene,
As that faire troupe of woodie Goddesses
Staied thee, (O Peneus) powring foorth to thee,
From cheereful lookes great mirth & gladsome glee.

The verie nature of the place, resounding
With gentle murmure of the breathing ayre,
A pleasant bowre with all delight abounding
In the fresh shadowe did for them prepayre,
To rest their limbs with wearines redounding.
For first the high Plaine trees with braunches faire,
Out of the lowly vallies did arise,
And high shoote vp their heads into the skyes.

And them amongst the wicked Lotos grew,
Wicked, for holding guilefully away
Vlysses men, whom rapt with sweetnes new,
Taking to hoste, it quite from him did stay,
And eke those trees, in whose transformed hew
The Sunnes sad daughters waylde the rash decay
Of Phaeton, whose limbs with lightning rent,
They gathering vp, with sweete teares did lament.

And that same tree, in which Demophoon,
By his disloyalty lamented sore,
Eternall hurte left vnto many one:
Whom als accompanied the Oke, of yore
Through fatall charmes transformd to such an one:
The Oke, whose Acornes were our foode, before
That Ceres seede of mortall men were knowne,
Which first Triptoleme taught how to be sowne.

Here also grew the rougher rinded Pine,
The great Argoan ships braue ornament
Whom golden Fleece did make an heauenly signe;
Which coueting, with his high tops extent,
To make the mountaines touch the starres diuine,
Decks all the forrest with embellishment,
And the blacke Holme that loues the watrie vale,
And the sweete Cypresse signe of deadly bale.

Emongst the rest the clambring Yuie grew,
Knitting his wanton armes with grasping hold,
Least that the Poplar happely should rew
Her brothers strokes, whose boughes she doth enfold
With her lythe twigs, till they the top survew,
And paint with pallid greene her buds of gold.
Next did the Myrtle tree to her approach,
Not yet vnmindfull of her olde reproach.

But the small Birds in their wide boughs embowring,
Chaunted their sundrie tunes with sweete consent,
And vnder them a siluer Spring forth powring
His trickling streames, a gentle murmure sent;
Thereto the frogs, bred in the slimie scowring
Of the moist moores, their iarring voyces bent;
And shrill grashoppers chirped them around:
All which the ayrie Echo did resound.

In this so pleasant place this Shepheards flocke
Lay euerie where, their wearie limbs to rest,
On euerie bush, and euerie hollow rocke
Where breathe on them the whistling wind mote best;
The whiles the Shepheard self tending his stocke,
Sate by the fountaine side, in shade to rest,
Where gentle slumbring sleep opressed him,
Displaid on ground, and seized euerie lim.

Of trecherie or traines nought tooke he keep,
But looslie on the grassie greene dispredd,
His dearest life did trust to careles sleep;
Which weighing down his drouping drowsie hedd,
In quiet rest his molten heart did steep,
Deuoid of care, and feare of all falsehedd:
Had not inconstant fortune, bent to ill,
Bid strange mischance his quietnes to spill.

For at his wonted time in that same place
An huge great Serpent all with speckles pide,
To drench himselfe in moorish slime did trace,
There from the boyling heate himselfe to hide:
He passing by with rolling wreathed pace,
With brandisht tongue the emptie aire did gride,
And wrapt his scalie boughts with fell despight,
That all things seem'd appalled at his sight.

Now more and more hauing himself enrolde,
His glittering breast he lifteth vp on hie,
And with proud vaunt his head aloft doth holde;
His creste aboue spotted with purple die,
On euerie side did shine like scalie golde,
And his bright eyes glauncing full dreadfullie,
Did seeme to flame out flakes of flashing fyre,
And with sterne lookes to threaten kindled yre.

Thus wise long time he did himselfe dispace
There round about, when as at last he spide
Lying along before him in that place,
That flocks grand Captaine, and most trustie guide:
Eftsoones more fierce in visage, and in pace,
Throwing his firie eyes on euerie side,
He commeth on, and all things in his way
Full stearnly rends, that might his passage stay.

Much he disdaines, that anie one should dare
To come vnto his haunt; for which intent
He inly burns, and gins straight to prepare
The weapons, which Nature to him hath lent:
Fellie he hisseth, and doth fiercely stare,
And hath his iawes with angrie spirits rent,
That all his tract with bloudie drops is stained,
And all his foldes are now in length outstrained.

Whom thus at point prepared, to preuent,
A little noursling of the humid ayre,
A Gnat vnto the sleepie Shepheard went,
And marking where his ey-lids twinckling rare,
Shewd the two pearles, which sight vnto him lent,
Through their thin couerings appearing fayre,
His little needle there infixing deep,
Warnd him awake, from death himselfe to keep.

Wherewith enrag'd, he fiecely gan vpstart,
And with his hand him rashly bruzing, slewe
As in auengement of his heedles smart,
That streight the sprite out of his senses flew,
And life out of his members did depart:
When suddenly casting aside his vew,
He spide his foe with felonous intent,
And feruent eyes to his destruction bent.

All suddenly dismaid, and hartles quight,
He fled abacke, and catching hastie holde
Of a yong alder hard beside him pight,
It rent, and streight about him gan beholde,
What God or Fortune would assist his might.
But whether God or Fortune made him bold
Its hard to read: yet hardie will he had
To ouercome, that made him lesse adrad.

The scalie backe of that most hideous snake
Enwrapped round, oft faining to retire,
And oft him to assaile, he fiercely strake
Whereas his temples did his creast front tyre;
And for he was but slowe, did slowth off shake,
And gazing ghastly on (for feare and yre
Had blent so much his sense, that lesse he feard
Yet when he saw him slaine, himself he cheard.

By this the night forth from the darksome bowre
Of Herebus her teemed steedes gan call,
And laesie Vesper in his timelie howre
From golden Oeta gan proceede withall;
Whenas the Shepheard after this sharpe stowre,
Seeing the doubled shadowes low to fall,
Gathering his straying flocke, does homeward fare,
And vnto rest his wearie ioynts prepare.

Into whose sense so soone as lighter sleepe
Was entered, and now loosing euerie lim,
Sweete slumbring deaw in carelessenesse did steepe,
The Image of that Gnat appeard to him,
And in sad tearmes gan sorrowfully weepe,
With greislie countenaunce and visage grim,
Wailing the wrong which he had done of late,
In steed of good hastning his cruell fate.

Said he, what haue I wretch deseru'd, that thus
Into this bitter bale I am outcast,
Whilest that thy life more deare and precious
Was than mine owne, so long as it did last?
I now in lieu of paines so gracious,
am tost in th' ayre with euerie windie blast:
Thou safe deliuered from sad decay,
Thy careles limbs in loose sleep dost display.

So liuest thou, but my poore wretched ghost
Is forst to ferrie ouer Lethes Riuer,
And spoyld of Charon too and fro am tost.
Seest thou, how all places quake and quiuer
Lightned with deadly lamps on euerie post?
Tisiphone each where doth shake and shiuer
Her flaming fire brond, encountring me,
Whose lockes vncombed cruell adders be.

And Cerberus, whose many mouthes doo bay,
And barke out flames, as if on fire he fed;
Adowne whose necke in terrible array,
Ten thousand snakes cralling about his hed
Doo hang in heapes, that horribly affray,
And bloodie eyes do glister firie red;
He oftentimes me dreadfullie doth threaten,
With painfull torments to be sorely beaten.

Ay me, that thankes so much should faile of meed,
For that I thee restor'd to life againe,
Euen from the doore of death and deadlie dreed.
Where then is now the guerdon of my paine?
Where the reward of my so piteous deed?
The praise of pitie vanisht is in vaine,
And th' antique faith of Iustice long agone
Out of the land is fled away and gone.

I saw anothers fate approaching fast,
And left mine owne his safetie to tender;
Into the same mishap I now am cast,
And shun'd destruction doth destruction render;
Not vnto him that neuer hath trespast,
But punishment is due to the offender.
Yet long destruction be the punishment,
So long as thankfull will may it relent.

I carried am into waste wildernesse,
Waste wildernes, amongst Cymerian shades,
Where endles paines and hideous heauinesse
Is round about me heapt in darksome glades.
For there huge Othos sits in sad distresse,
Fast bound with serpents that him oft inuades;
Far of beholding Ephialtes tide,
Which once assai'd to burne this world so wide.

And there is mournfull Tityus mindefull yet
Of thy displeasure, O Latona faire;
Displeasure too implacable was it,
That made him meat for wild foules of the ayre:
Much do I feare among such fiends to sit;
Much do I feare back to them to repayre,
To the black shadowes of the Stygian shore,
Where wretched ghosts sit wailing euermore.

There next the vtmost brinck doth he abide,
That did the bankets of the Gods bewray,
Whose throat through thirst to nought nigh being dride
His sense to seeke for ease turnes euery way:
And he that in auengement of his pride,
For scorning to the sacred Gods to pray,
Against a mountaine rolls a mighty stone,
Calling in vaine for rest, and can haue none.

Go ye with them, go cursed damosells,
Whose bridale torches foule Erynnis tynde,
And Hymen at your Spousalls sad, foretells
Tydings of death and massacre vnkinde:
With them that cruell Colchid mother dwells,
The which conceiu'd in her reuengefull minde,
With bitter woundes her owne deere babes to slay,
And murdred troupes vpon great heapes to lay.

There also those two Pandionian maides,
Calling on Itis, Itis euermore,
Whom wretched boy they slew with guiltie blades;
For whome the Thracian king lamenting sore,
Turn'd to a Lapwing, fowlie them vpbraydes,
And fluttering round about them still does sore;
There now they all eternally complaine
Of others wrong, and suffer endles paine.

But the two brethren borne of Cadmus blood,
Whilst each does for the Soueraignty contend,
Blinde through ambition, and with vengeance wood
Each doth against the others bodie bend
His cursed steele, of neither well withstood,
And with wide wounds their carcases doth rend;
That yet they both doe mortall foes remaine,
Sith each with brothers bloudie hands was slaine.

Ah (waladay) there is no end of paine,
Nor chaunge of labour may intreated bee:
Yet I beyond all these am carried faine,
Where others powers farre different I see,
And must passe ouer to th' Elisian plaine:
There grim Persephone encountring mee,
Doth vrge her fellowFuries earnestly,
With their bright firebronds me to terrifie.

There chast Alceste liues inuiolate,
Free from all care, for that her husbands daies
She did prolong by changing fate for fate,
Lo there liues also the immortall praise
Of womankinde, most faithfull to her mate,
Penelope: and from her farre awayes
A rulesse rout of yongmen, which her woo'd
All slaine with darts, lie wallowed in their blood.

And sad Eurydice thence now no more
Must turne to life, but there detained bee,
For looking back, being forbid before:
Yet was the guilt thereof, Orpheus, in thee.
Bold sure he was, and worthie spirite bore,
That durst those lowest shadowes goe to see,
And could beleeue that anie thing could please
Fell Cerberus, or Stygian powres appease.

Ne feard the burning waues of Phlegeton,
Nor those same mournfull kingdomes compassed
With rustie horrour and fowle fashion,
And deep digd vawtes, and Tartar couered
With bloodie night, and darke confusion,
And iudgement seates, whose Iudge is deadlie dred,
A iudge, that after death doth punish sore
The faults, which life hath trespassed before.

But valiant fortune made Dan Orpheus bolde:
For the swift running riuers still did stand,
And the wilde beasts their furie did withhold,
To follow Orpheus musicke through the land:
And th' Okes deep grounded in the earthly molde
Did moue, as if they could him vnderstand;
And the shrill woods, which were of sense bereau'd,
Through their hard barke his siluer sound receau'd.

And eke the Moone her hastie steedes did stay,
Drawing in teemes along the starrie skie,
And didst (ô monthly Virgin) thou delay
Thy nightly course, to heare his melodie?
The same was able with like louely lay
The Queene of hell to moue as easily,
To yeeld Eurydice vnto her fere,
Backe to be borne, though it vnlawfull were.

She (Ladie) hauing well before approoued,
The feends to be too cruell and seuere,
Obseru'd th' appointed way, as her behooued,
Ne euer did her ey-sight turne arere,
Ne euer spake, ne cause of speaking mooued:
But cruell Orpheus thou much crueller,
Seeking to kisse her, brok'st the Gods decree,
And thereby mad'st her euer damn'd to be.

Ah but sweete loue of pardon worthie is,
And doth deserue to haue small faults remitted;
If Hell at least things lightly done amis
Knew how to pardon, when ought is omitted:
Yet are ye both receiued into blis,
And to the seates of happie soules admitted.
And you, beside the honourable band
Of great heroës doo in order stand.

There be the two stout sonnes of Aeacus,
Fierce Peleus, and the hardie Telamon.
Both seeming now full glad and ioyeous
Through their Syres dreadfull iurisdiction,
Being the Iudge of all that horrid hous:
And both of them by strange occasion,
Renown'd in choyce of happie marriage
Through Venus grace, and vertues cariage.

For th'one was rauisht of his owne bondmaide,
The faire Ixione captiu'd from Troy:
But th' other was with Thetis loue assaid,
Great Nereus his daughter, and his ioy.
On this side them there is a yongman layd,
Their match in glorie, mightie, fierce and coy;
That from th' Argolick ships, with furious yre,
Bett back the furie of the Troian fyre.

O who would not recount the strong diuorces
Of that great warre, which Troianes oft behelde,
And oft beheld the warlike Greekish forces,
When Teucrian soyle with bloodie riuers swelde,
And wide Sigæan shores were spred with corses,
And Simois and Xanthus blood out welde,
Whilst Hector raged with outragious minde,
Flames, weapons, wounds, in Greeks fleete to haue tynde.

For Ida selfe, in ayde of that fierce fight,
Out of her mountaines ministred supplies,
And like a kindly nourse, did yeeld (for spight)
Store of firebronds out of her nourseries,
Vnto her foster children that they might
Inflame the Nauie of their enemies,
And all the Rhætean shore to ashes turne,
Where lay the ships, which they did seeke to burne.

Gainst which the noble sonne of Telamon
Opposd' himselfe, and thwarting his huge shield,
Them battell bad, gainst whom appeard anon
Hector, the glorie of the Troian field:
Both fierce and furious in contention
Encountred, that their mightie strokes so shrild,
As the great clap of thunder, which doth ryue
The ratling heauens, and cloudes asunder dryue.

So th' one with fire and weapons did contend
To cut the ships, from turning home againe
To Argos, th' other stroue for to defend
The force of Vulcane with his might and maine.
Thus th'one Aecide did his fame extend:
But th' other ioy'd, that on the Phrygian playne
Hauing the blood of vanquisht Hector shedd,
He compast Troy thrice with his bodie dedd.

Againe great dole on either partie grewe,
That him to death vnfaithfull Paris sent,
And also him that false Vlysses slewe,
Drawne into danger through close ambushment:
Therefore from him Laërtes sonne his vewe
Doth turne aside, and boasts his good euent
In working of Strymonian Rhæsus fall,
And efte in Dolonsslye surprysall.

Againe the dreadfull Cycones him dismay,
And blacke Læstrigones, a people stout:
Then greedie Scilla, vnder whom there bay
Manie great bandogs, which her gird about:
Then doo the Aetnean Cyclops him affray,
And deep Charybdis gulphing in and out:
Lastly the squalid lakes of Tartarie,
And griesly Feends of hell him terrifie.

There also goodly Agamemnon bosts,
The glorie of the stock of Tantalus,
And famous light of all the Greekish hosts,
Vnder whose conduct most victorious,
The Dorick flames consum'd the Iliack posts.
Ah but the Greekes themselues more dolorous,
To thee, ô Troy, paid penaunce for thy fall,
In th' Hellespont being nigh drowned all.

Well may appeare by proofe of their mischaunce,
The chaungefull turning of mens slipperie state,
That none, whom fortune freely doth aduaunce,
Himselfe therefore to heauen should eleuate:
For loftie type of honour through the glaunce
Of enuies dart, is downe in dust prostrate;
And all that vaunts in worldly vanitie,
Shall fall through fortunes mutabilitie.

Th' Argolicke power returning home againe,
Enricht with spoyes of th' Ericthonian towre,
Did happie winde and weather entertaine,
And with good speed the fomie billowes scowre:
No signe of storme, no feare of future paine,
Which soone ensued them with heauie stowre.
Nereïs to the Seas a token gaue,
The whiles their crooked keeles the surges claue.

Suddenly, whether through the Gods decree,
Or haplesse rising of some froward starre,
The heauens on euerie side enclowded bee:
Black stormes and fogs are blowen vp from farre,
That now the Pylote can no loadstarre see,
But skies and seas doo make most dreadfull warre;
The billowes striuing to the heauens to reach,
And th' heauens striuing them for to impeach.

And in auengement of their bold attempt,
Both Sun and starres and all the heauenly powres
Conspire in one to wreake their rash contempt,
And downe on them to fall from highest towres:
The skie in pieces seeming to be rent,
Throwes lightning forth, & haile, & harmful showres
That death on euerie side to them appeares
In thousand formes, to worke more ghastly feares.

Some in the greedie flouds are sunke and drent,
Some on the rocks of Caphareus are throwne;
Some on th' Euboick Cliffs in pieces rent;
Some scattred on the Hercæan shores vnknowne;
And manie lost, of whom no moniment
Remaines,
nor memorie is to be showne:
Whilst all the purchase of the Phrigian pray
Tost on salt billowes, round about doth stray.

Here manie other like Heroës bee,
Equall in honour to the former crue,
Whom ye in goodly seates may placed see,
Descended all from Rome by linage due,
From Rome, that holds the world in souereigntie,
And doth all Nations vnto her subdue:
Here Fabij and Decij doo dwell,
Horatij that in vertue did excell.

And here the antique fame of stout Camill
Doth euer liue, and constant Curtius,
Who stifly bent his vowed life to spill
For Countreyes health, a gulph most hideous
Amidst the Towne with his owne corps did fill,
T' appease the powers; and prudent Mutius,
Who in his flesh endur'd the scorching flame,
To daunt his foe by ensample of the same.

And here wise Curius, companion
Of noble vertues, liues in endles rest;
And stout Flaminius, whose deuotion
Taught him the fires scorn'd furie to detest;
And here the praise of either Scipion
Abides in highest place aboue the best,
To whom the ruin'd walls of Carthage vow'd,
Trembling their forces, sound their praises lowd.

Liue they for euer through their lasting praise:
But I poore wretch am forced to retourne
To the sad lakes, that Phoebus sunnie rayes
Doo neuer see, where soules doo alwaies mourne,
And by the wayling shores to waste my dayes,
Where Phlegeton with quenchles flames doth burne;
By which iust Minos righteous soules doth seuer
From wicked ones, to liue in blisse for euer.

Me therefore thus the cruell fiends of hell
Girt with long snakes, and thousand yron chaynes,
Through doome of that their cruell Iudge, compell
With bitter torture and impatient paines,
Cause of my death, and iust complaint to tell.
For thou art he, whom my poore ghost complaines
To be the author of her ill vnwares,
That careles hear'st my intollerable cares.

Them therefore as bequeathing to the winde,
I now depart, returning to thee neuer,
And leaue this lamentable plaint behinde.
But doo thou haunt the soft downe rolling riuer,
And wilde greene woods, and fruitful pastures minde,
And let the flitting aire my vaine words seuer.
Thus hauing said, he heauily departed
With piteous crie, that anie would haue smarted.

Now, when the sloathful fit of lifes sweete rest
Had left the heauie Shepheard, wondrous cares
His inly grieued minde full sore opprest;
That balefull sorrow he no longer beares,
For that Gnats death, which deeply was imprest:
But bends what euer power his aged yeares
Him lent, yet being such, as through their might
He lately slue his dreadfull foe in fight.

By that same Riuer lurking vnder greene,
Eftsoones he gins to fashion forth a place,
And squaring it in compasse well beseene,
There plotteth out a tombe by measured space:
His yron headed spade tho making cleene,
To dig vp sods out of the flowrie grasse,
His worke he shortly to good purpose brought,
Like as he had conceiu'd it in his thought.

An heape of earth he hoorded vp on hie,
Enclosing it with banks on euerie side,
And thereupon did raise full busily
A little mount, of greene turffs edifide;
And on the top of all, that passers by
Might it behold, the toomb he did provide
Of smoothest marble stone in order set,
That neuer might his luckie scape forget.

And round about he taught sweete flowres to growe,
The Rose engrained in pure scarlet die,
The Lilly fresh, and Violet belowe,
The Marigolde, and cherefull Rosemarie,
The Spartan Mirtle, whence sweet gumb does flowe,
The purple Hyacinthe, and fresh Costmarie,
And Saffron sought for in Cilician soyle,
And Lawrell th' ornament of Phoebus toyle.

Fresh Rhododaphne, and the Sabine flowre
Matching the wealth of th' auncient Frankincence,
And pallid Yuie, building of his owne bowre,
And Box yet mindfull of his olde offence,
Red Amaranthus, lucklesse Paramour,
Oxeye still greene, and bitter Patience;
Ne wants there pale Narcisse, that in a well
Seeing his beautie, in loue with it fell,

And whatsoeuer other flowre of worth,
And whatso other hearb of louely hew
The iouyous Spring out of the ground brings forth,
To cloath her selfe in colours fresh and new;
He planted there, and reard a mount of earth,
In whose high front was writ as doth ensue.

To thee, small Gnat, in lieu of his life saued,
The Shepheard hath thy deaths record engraued.

Submitted: Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Do you like this poem?
0 person liked.
0 person did not like.

Read this poem in other languages

This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.

I would like to translate this poem »

word flags

What do you think this poem is about?

Comments about this poem (Virgils Gnat by Edmund Spenser )

Enter the verification code :

  • Rookie Nerys Williams (7/8/2014 2:22:00 PM)

    But if that any Oedipus vnware... Was Edmund Spenser the son of Elizabeth 1 and Robert Dudley or was he her lover, or was he both as Oedipus might suggest? (Report) Reply

Read all 1 comments »

Trending Poets

Trending Poems

  1. A Child's Christmas in Wales, Dylan Thomas
  2. The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost
  3. Still I Rise, Maya Angelou
  4. Annabel Lee, Edgar Allan Poe
  5. No Man Is An Island, John Donne
  6. Invictus, William Ernest Henley
  7. And Death Shall Have No Dominion, Dylan Thomas
  8. If, Rudyard Kipling
  9. I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  10. On the Ning Nang Nong, Spike Milligan

Poem of the Day

poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

...... Read complete »

   

New Poems

  1. Needed Sleep, Michael P. McParland
  2. Needed, Michael P. McParland
  3. Need To Know, Michael P. McParland
  4. Need, Michael P. McParland
  5. Where Did I go wrong, Poetic Lilly Emery
  6. A Universal Gift, Sandra Feldman
  7. The Constant Factor, Steve Kittell
  8. The Life Doesn't Stop for Me., Jiya Acharya
  9. Somewhere In Fantasy Land Hazel Icefrost, Heather Burns
  10. Beats of the New City., Jiya Acharya
[Hata Bildir]